Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Jeff Gargas and Rae Hughart of the Teach Better Talk! podcast about anthropology and teaching. The interview picks up at 16:48 into the episode.

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Jeff Gargas: [00:16:48] All right. We are here. We are chatting with Matt arts and Matt, so awesome to have you on the podcast. Really appreciate you taking some time out of your day and hanging out with Ray and I for a little bit and chat and excited to kind of dive into your story and learn more about you and share that with others before we get too far into things, man.

[00:17:03] How do you feel right now?

[00:17:04] Matt Artz: [00:17:04] Great. And first off though, uh, you know, Jeff, thanks for having me, Ray. Appreciate it. Glad to come on. Cool podcast. Yes.

[00:17:10] Rae Hughart: [00:17:10] Oh, it’s going to be so much fun, man. I can’t wait to learn more about your story and dive into all the guidance. You’re going to be able to provide our listeners before we get too far in, though.

[00:17:18] Would you mind kind of sharing kind of on that age, old question. Hey Matt, like, what do you do?

[00:17:25] Matt Artz: [00:17:25] So, um, I. Work in tech. So I’m a business anthropologist who works in technology. So I use the methods and theories of anthropology to build products. So my official role in tech is the head of product of head of product and experience.

[00:17:40] So that basically means I’m leading the process of researching, designing, and building software applications. Aside from that, I also teach, so I have, um, Taught on and off over the years and just got back into it this past summer. And we’ll be teaching, uh, continuing a product management course at Marywood university.

[00:17:59] Aside from that, uh, I’ve recently actually started my own podcast. So I’m an episode, two episodes, deep into two different podcasts, both on anthropology. And then for fun, I like to make music and visual art and you know, some other things that maybe we can get into. All right. So I want

[00:18:14] Jeff Gargas: [00:18:14] I’m I’m good. I’m going to take us immediately off course where we would normally go on this cause I’m and what you’re teaching over there.

[00:18:21] Um, of course, your course is on product product management. Can you kind of give us for those listening? Might not know what that means. What does it mean? Like what do you actually teach and what are you sharing? What knowledge are you instill on folks?

[00:18:32] Matt Artz: [00:18:32] Sure. So, you know, first off it might be worth saying that product management is one of the most sought after jobs today of many MBAs.

[00:18:40] That’s a, I forget the exact numbers behind it, but some, some research that Harvard did. So product management is one of those very sort of invoke jobs in tech. Uh, there. Good jobs for anybody who’s listening or, you know, who might want to maybe include this in their own curriculum to teach. But so product management is essentially the process by which we manage the product development process.

[00:19:04] And a product manager is the person who is doing that. And that person needs to lead really with sort of a soft persuasion, if you will, because you’re traditionally not managing people, but a process. So I’m really teaching the process as well as. A broader perspective on how it fits in the organization.

[00:19:26] Uh, you know, sort of some of the soft skills that you need to succeed in that job. And I also bring in the anthropological component because a big part of building products is the research that goes up front. And historically a lot of that research might be very rapid. Whereas, you know, in having the anthropological background, I bring that in and sort of infuse that whole perspective into the course.

[00:19:47] And so it’s very human centered. Yeah, designed, um, course all centered around innovation.

[00:19:55] Jeff Gargas: [00:19:55] I love it. You said you kind of taught, you talked for a while and then just recently came back is heavy. Has it always been the same area that you’ve, that you’ve taught and always been at the collegiate level or

[00:20:06] Matt Artz: [00:20:06] so I’ve always taught at the collegiate level.

[00:20:08] I started at a, um, a small college teaching, you know, basic kind of office computing many years ago then, um, Few years went by and I progressed, um, to teaching essentially the ethics of it or ethics, ethics of technology. And that was really interesting, you know, there’s obviously, particularly right now in the time Miranda it’s, it’s a very ripe area.

[00:20:32] And then again, sort of took another break I was in, I went back myself to get it and then, or the degree, the anthropology degree. And so now that I’ve sort of wrapped that up and I’ve now come back teaching again and I’m teaching this course.

[00:20:46] Gotcha. I love it. So, uh, you know, one of the things that we talk about on this podcast a lot is, is failure.

[00:20:51] It’s one of my favorite questions to ask and hear these stories and, and, um, learn from them because I always say that I’ve been fortunate enough to fail a ton in my life. And I learned from it. And even though I didn’t enjoy them at the time that they happened, they’ve, they’ve made me who I am, the teach me lessons still every day.

[00:21:05] So I love hearing these stories. So can you share a story with us about a time that you’ve had a failure? It’s got to take us there with you. What happened? How did you overcome that? And then what’d you take away

[00:21:13] from that experience? Yeah. Sure. So when I was an undergraduate, I majored in biotech and business, and I had a senior research project in which I built a product.

[00:21:30] Literally like physically prototyped a product that was Joe electrophoresis apparatus. So Joe electrophoresis is one of the ways to separate DNA and you do it by molecular charge it’s process that takes an hour long. And so in labs, it was always just annoying to me that we wasted a whole hour, just well watching this process running, there’s really nothing to watch.

[00:21:48] So, uh, I had an idea of how to maybe speed that up. Created this prototype, you know, fast forward, everything was successful. Spun that out into a business entered business competition did well in their place. Second came out with some funds, you know, was ramping up the business, filed a PA PR provisional patent.

[00:22:09] And then. You know, as that process was going through. And if you know anything about patents, it’s a very lengthy process. Maybe, you know, three to five years, probably on average, I was starting to get cold feet about taking out an excessive amount of debt to manufacture this device when I’d have to compete with, you know, Fisher scientific and, you know, sort of big players.

[00:22:29] So long story short. Uh, I chose not to go forward. And so ultimately that business was a failure. Now there’s probably a number of things I could have done in retrospect. I wish I still did give it a shot. I realized I should have moved quicker at that time. Uh, there was still a unique opportunity at that point in time where this kind of device would have been useful to.

[00:22:51] Educational facilities or institutions, maybe not as much as an industry, but there was an opportunity there. So I should have gone forward. And I didn’t, and I regret that, but in the end, you know, what I learned from that was again, to sort of move quick and quite a bit about business. And so in the end, when I spend that down, I took really the remaining of the remainder of the funds and all the lessons learned from that.

[00:23:18] And I ended up starting another business, which ultimately was successful.

[00:23:23] Jeff Gargas: [00:23:23] I love that. So you took the lessons learned from the, from the first business and flipped it right into something new and took off that way. So I love that. Let’s um, let’s flip that around. Let’s talk about a successful moment you have, so this will be something big or something small, but same thing.

[00:23:37] Take us there with you. What happened? Why was it a success for you? And then what’d you take away from

[00:23:41] Matt Artz: [00:23:41] that experience? Sure. So, I mean, certainly the example I just gave was, you know, was an example in that, you know, learn the lessons from the previous business. Use that to start another, I ended up building that business, which was essentially digital marketing, but with a little bit of research mixed in, I would say kind of non-formal research.

[00:23:58] I didn’t have an anthropology degree at that point, but. That old business ultimately was successful. I divested that and then took over in a leadership role in a technology company that I, I sold it to. And that has led to a number of interesting opportunities in my life. And maybe another success that I think is interesting, which is that correct?

[00:24:21] Maybe that I sold it to was then acquired by another in time. And as that opportunity sort of matured and started. I had the opportunity to really propose, to start a user experience practice within this software engineering firm. And I was in school for my anthropology degree. So when I came out, I was going to be looking for a user experience job.

[00:24:43] And so, you know, Well, a few factors came together, but it allowed me to start my own practice within this organization, build the team, you know, define the methods, the processes that we’re going to use it. We built some great products. You know, we built one that was featured by Apple. We got to design a system, a research and design a system for a fortune 11.

[00:25:02] I think it was at the time. So it did some really cool things. And so that was a nice journey.

[00:25:07] Rae Hughart: [00:25:07] Man. I really enjoyed listening to your successes because it not only is about the successes that you’ve been able to bring in your experience as a teacher, but also just as a person trying to do good work. I think there are so many educators out there, whether they teach at a higher ed level, a secondary level, even an elementary level who are not only trying to do great things as students, but great things in partnership with students really build.

[00:25:32] Really powerful experiences for our students that impact the world. And so I’ve really loved those stories and that being a focus of not only the work you’ve done, but also the work that you’ve been able to do with the people that you, you know, learn alongside. If you had to pinpoint something that excites you right now about education and kind of all that you’re doing, what’s really fueling your fire and keeping you excited.

[00:25:57] Matt Artz: [00:25:57] Yeah, so good. Say another great question. And thanks for that. You know, I think what’s one of the things that’s particularly interesting about this teaching opportunity, but also teaching this time around really excites me because I’m teaching an applied course in product management. And so the students have the opportunity.

[00:26:14] To work on a real life project. Um, previously we did something around the actual, you know, there’s when I taught it was during COVID this, you might have taught this last course, it was during COVID. So we did some research actually around, you know, the process of online learning and distance learning.

[00:26:32] And then I turned over, you know, some of those findings. And so, uh, in the future, it will be likely. Uh, some of my own projects. And so that, that really excites me to bring in students to real life projects and let them get experience while they’re in going through the program, not just, um, you know, not just some hypothetical project, but something that is really being built, you know, out in the wild, if you will.

[00:26:54] And them contributing to that. And particularly, you know, in this case, it being product management, I’m also excited that the students. I have the opportunity to teach there at a smaller institution, smaller, you know, um, liberal arts institution. Most of those smaller liberal arts institutions are not teaching product management yet.

[00:27:11] So I think they’re getting something that is, uh, really preparing them to work in the future of sort of technology. Absolutely.

[00:27:19] Rae Hughart: [00:27:19] And you don’t understand like that is like literally my jam. I love that when teachers at any level, and if you’re listening right now, this can happen at any level where you’re bringing in those projects that truly impact.

[00:27:33] Not just the learning experience, but the larger community. I think that your examples here are such beautiful examples of how you can make learning relevant really allows students to bring value back into their community. Holy moly. I think it’s wonderful. And if you’re listening right now, guys, you can do this at any grade level, Matt, it seems like you’re an expert at doing this in higher ed.

[00:27:56] So I love these examples of. Like you said, like kind of building these projects, like in the trenches, like it’s actually something that’s going to exist afterwards. And that’s really, really powerful. If you had to give a piece of advice, a piece of advice to teachers, any teacher listening, what would be the piece of advice that you would leave them with?

[00:28:16] Matt Artz: [00:28:16] So I’ll answer that by actually building on your comment and in one of the great things. I think about applied courses where you’re working on real life projects is you do end up with a portfolio if you will. And that is something that you can then talk about. In an interview, you can show, you know, I did this portion of this work on this project.

[00:28:39] I did the, this was the research I did. Cause you know, the students in this course, they’re doing every step of the way and they’re doing a lot of it independently in the beginning and then bring it together at the end and sort of summarizing it if you will, and finding common themes and then making recommendations together.

[00:28:53] But so, you know, I particularly also like how they come out with a portfolio and into the advice for other teachers. I think it would be beneficial to make sure that we’re teaching skills that will get students jobs, jobs, you know, especially like as somebody who has an anthropology degree. I mean, I was fortunate.

[00:29:10] I went to an applied anthropology program. So the whole focus was to, you know, to apply anthropology in industry and to obviously go out and work. And we had applied project. So all throughout the courses and then, you know, a thesis that is applied to me, I learned a lot from that and would recommend that to everybody else.

[00:29:27] That’s listening because. Especially in a, in a field like anthropology. Yeah. There’s just, there’s very few academic jobs anymore. And so I don’t think it behooves any of us, students, teachers really to sort of keep up the old paradigm and act like retraining, you know, students to be, uh, the next round of teachers.

[00:29:46] When many of those jobs are just not available. I think we need to be teaching skills that gets to jobs. I love that. And

[00:29:52] Jeff Gargas: [00:29:52] as such what we need to be teaching those skills that get people job, and I know, uh, you know, Right. Was connecting with you so much on there about that relevancy and what they’re, how they’re actually going to use their learning to, to, to build not only better lives, but also impact the communities and the world.

[00:30:07] So I love that connection there. Um, Let’s let’s have some fun, man. We’re gonna have some fun on this one. These next six questions I’m gonna throw at you, your goals answer each one 15 seconds or less. You ready? Let’s do it. All right. Give us one a tech tool. You can not live without,

[00:30:24] Matt Artz: [00:30:24] I would say Miro because we used it.

[00:30:27] It’s an interactive tool. So especially during COVID or any online learning, you know, it was great to get the excitement around everybody working together. Like they’re around a whiteboard. Give us a book we’re in right now. Uh, why the world needs anthropologists, which is a brand new book that just came out from a group of authors in a group of anthropologists who, um, put on a conference in Europe,

[00:30:52] Jeff Gargas: [00:30:52] uh, who do we need to follow Twitter or Instagram today,

[00:30:56] Matt Artz: [00:30:56] given everything that’s going on in the.

[00:30:59] Current environment. I would recommend maybe the center for humane technology and data and society, both are very much interested in responsible tech or ethical tech, you know, how we handle data so on and so forth. Well, it’s a good

[00:31:12] Jeff Gargas: [00:31:12] YouTube channel website or podcast for educators to check

[00:31:16] Matt Artz: [00:31:16] out. So I will maybe recommend some anthropological ones in case anybody wants to bring in a little to that into their course.

[00:31:23] Um, you know, ethnography is a skill that’s in need and so Epic is a wonderful website. And then as a shameless plug and I just started two podcasts that are all about helping anthropologists get careers in business. And so I think those can both be beneficial if you’re interested in that area.

[00:31:41] Jeff Gargas: [00:31:41] Uh, give us a daily, weekly, or monthly routine every teacher should get into.

[00:31:47] Matt Artz: [00:31:47] So I would suggest that people treat teaching almost like we do in. In the form of in user experience, that is to say iterative design, right? So, you know, when you do something, do a little research in the sense to figure out how it’s working.

[00:32:02] If it’s not working iterate on that, iterate on that, iterate on that Intuit is working. And just because it worked this year, doesn’t mean it’s going to work, you know, with the next batch of students or three years from now, or whatever it is just constantly learn and iterate.

[00:32:16] Jeff Gargas: [00:32:16] And finally, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

[00:32:21] Matt Artz: [00:32:21] I received. Some advice when I was going into graduate school, which I think is important for maybe anybody that, where you are advising, which is I don’t, I think there’s a value in going out and working before you go back to get a master’s or PhD. I, the first time I went straight through, when I got my MBA, I didn’t have much to offer in terms of like real-world experience.

[00:32:44] Second time around, I had probably 10 years of working experience and I could bring a lot into the anthropology program. So I would advise. You know, today, I like to advise students that they maybe want to consider taking a break first.

[00:32:57] Jeff Gargas: [00:32:57] I love it. I love the daily, the while of that, the piece of advice, but also love the, uh, iterating on their own designs.

[00:33:04] And I think that’s so important for. For, for us to constantly be doing so I’d love that reflection and constantly try and AB testing and going from there. So, awesome job. What do you think

[00:33:15] Rae Hughart: [00:33:15] that’s super helpful? And it’s interesting that you bring up this concept of, of going and getting some experience before going into a higher education degree in terms of a master’s or a doctorate.

[00:33:25] I either so many educators that actually talked to me about this. I got an email last week about somebody who recently graduated from college and was pursuing a master’s degree or hoping to soon and wanted to know what the recommendation was. And while I don’t think that there’s a right answer, you know, to each their own, there’s so many pros and cons in this equation, there is something very authentic about being able to take time in the field.

[00:33:52] And then go back because the work that you’re going to be doing is going to more easily relate to the, to the career field, the work that you’re doing directly, um, then maybe just checking a box and getting something accomplished. You know, you’re really gonna find your passions as you get into the field a little bit and really see, you know, what really sparks interest in.

[00:34:12] How can you get started? So super cool advice, Matt. I really, really appreciate that. I want to make sure that our listeners who I’m sure are going to reach out to you and want to learn all about the podcast and everything else, have your contact information. So if you don’t mind, could you share kind of your favorites?

[00:34:27] Spots how people can stay connected.

[00:34:32] Matt Artz: [00:34:32] Cool. So anybody can look me up on LinkedIn, Matt Artz M A T T A R T Z. Um, feel free to reach out connect, however you wish. Um, you can also find me at my website, which is And I also have a TedX Talk, which was on my consumer DNA research. So if you’re interested, please feel free to check that out.

[00:34:50] Are DNA Tests Safe?.